“Beauty will save the world”, wrote the great Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Everywhere, beauty seduces, attracts, heals, regenerates and energizes. But that particular beauty, which Dostoyevsky’s words describe as saving, is ultimately Christ’s Beauty. The Book of Song of Songs magnifies this Beauty in a language that is both poetic and romantic. The psalmist echoes the Song of Songs while stating: “You are the most handsome of men; grace is poured upon your lips”. It is therefore not a surprise to hear from the lips of Saint Augustine a direct reference to Christ as the everlasting beauty: “Late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient and so new.”
As one marvels upon Christ’s Beauty, one is naturally lead to contemplate that saving Beauty in his mystical Body: the Church or precisely the Catholic Church. Born from his eternal Love and continuing his redemptive mission on earth, the Catholic Church offers to people from all the times and origins, a glimpse of Christ’s saving Beauty. Where is that Beauty concretely disclosed in the Church?
First of all, in the liturgy. Looking at how every liturgical act is carried out leaves to the soul a sense of wonder: the voice of choirs together with the sound of instruments that accompanies it, the liturgical vestments of sacred ministers, the wording of liturgical prayers and other petitions, the nobility of the movement of those serving at the Altar, the cleanliness and the décor of the building hosting the liturgical celebration, the dignity of the people of God express in their external attire, all of this speaks eloquently on behalf of Christ’s saving Beauty incarnated in the Church.
Second, in the work of Christian art. Sacred images and sculptures embodied marvelously Christ’s saving Beauty in the Church. The most ancient icon of Andrei Roublev representing the Holy Trinity has left many of its observers with a feeling of awe. The famous portrait of the Prodigal Son speaks a language that is new: God’s mercy is beautiful. The Michelangelo’s Pieta corroborates clearly the words of Saint Augustine: “Christ is beautiful even in his death.” Other icons and sacred images of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints of all times abound. They all express Christ’s saving Beauty shining in the Church.
Third, in the holiness of life. Recent scandals of Child abuses have distorted the Church’s image in the world. In addition, many other isolated incidents have often encouraged a negative view of the Church. But all of these misleading happenings cannot eclipse the Church’s beauty made manifest in the saintly life of many of her children. At every age, the Church has born men and women whose remarkable lives have been acknowledged even by non-Catholics. People like Madre Teresa of Calcuta and Pope John Paul II of venerable memory, just to mention these two, have shown to the face of the whole world that Christ’s saving Beauty is still present in the community he has founded: the Catholic Church.
Fourth, in the Canon Law. Most people dread positive law. For law has a coercive dimension. Fortunately, everybody agrees that the coercion of the law is intended to the common good of the whole society. If this is true for civil law, it is far more for Canon Law. Pastoral in nature, Canon Law does not intend only the external good of the Catholic Christians. Its main goal is the salvation of soul. Is there anything more beautiful than a redeemed soul?
“Beauty will save the world.” Christ’s saving Beauty incarnated in the Church, will save the world.